Sold-out shows are nothing new to comedian Pete Holmes. But when he spoke in town on Saturday, the Lexington native focused more on piety than punchlines — not that the two capacity crowds he attracted to WBUR’s CitySpace venue seemed to care.
Discussing his recently released autobiography, “Comedy Sex God,’’ with Amory Sivertson (cohost of WBUR’s “Endless Thread’’ podcast), Holmes spoke at length about its main subject: his lifelong fascination with forms of spirituality, from his evangelical Christian upbringing to the wider soul-seeking he’s since embraced.
“A comedian talking about spirituality is important,’’ he said during the evening’s second hour-long session. “Spirituality is so embarrassing. We parcel it out to other people with funny hats to talk and think about it for us, and we’ll visit them, but I want to show that [it matters to] somebody who has anxiety, doubts, nasty thoughts — whatever you got, I got it.’’
Holmes was earnest and effusive as he dug into his personal philosophies, a demeanor likely familiar to any audience members who listen to his long-running podcast “You Made It Weird,’’ where he interviews guests about comedy, religion, and sexuality. Whether discussing the birth of his daughter last fall or joking about “bautism’’ — a term for a Boston-specific kind of closed-mindedness he coined on his podcast mid-conversation with singer Matt Nathanson — Holmes appeared relaxed and cheerful onstage.
The comedian showed precious little love, however, for his notoriously conservative alma mater, Gordon College in Wenham. “[Expletive] that place,’’ he said, calling his choice to enroll a “fear-based decision’’ made in his younger, more devout years.
“I went there because I was scared of real schools. I was afraid of what philosophy courses, keggers, and anonymous sex would do to me. . . . I got a lot out of it, more than they intended, due to some great professors who changed my life. But, yeah, [expletive] that place.’’
Later, Holmes reflected on the unexpected cancellation of his HBO series “Crashing.’’ The Judd Apatow-produced series, based on the comedian’s early years in the New York stand-up scene, was axed after concluding its acclaimed third season. Could there be a movie to wrap it up?
“HBO was open to that idea, and it’s still on the table,’’ said Holmes. “But I’m so pleased with how it ended. . . . Just because someone says you can do something, that doesn’t mean you should.’’